Liquid Paradise: Water Sports in Belize

The real waterworld: Snorkeling the Belize Reef  (courtesy, Belize Tourism Bureau)

Belize doesn't cover much landmass, but when it comes to water, this country is a veritable aquatic superpower. Because of its small size, visitors can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time—dive the Blue Hole National Monument made famous by Jacques Cousteau, sea kayak above water with astounding 200-foot visibility, windsurf beside untouched white-sand beaches, snorkel above myriad species of fish, and man your own sailboat in the same water once plied by pirates in pursuit of Spanish galleons&3151;all within a mere ten-day period.
Sea kayaking is the best mode of transportation for an up-close encounter with Belize's barrier reef and its pristine ecosystem of coral colonies, mangrove-anchored cayes, and leeward atolls. Spots such as Chetumal Bay, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Hol Chan Channel provide ample opportunities for snorkeling or simply lounging on the beach. Alternatively, more expansive multi-day trips will lead paddlers to unspoiled coves and islands by day and remote, beachside campgrounds by night.
Should your shoulders grow paddle-weary, let the wind be your turbine for skimming Belize's turquoise sea. Rent your own Sunfish, Hobie-cat, or catamaran to island hop around Ambergris Caye and the Turneffe Islands. (If you do hoist sail, just be aware that waters around the atolls can get very shallow.) Additionally, Ambergris and Caye Caulker's flat waters are ideal for windsurfers who are seeking a slick, effortless ride, while Turneffe Atoll is an angler's paradise.
As one of the world's preeminent diving spots, Belize's extensive reef can be enjoyed either with a regulator or a snorkel. Lighthouse Reef is the ultimate dive location, particularly the 300-foot-diameter Blue Hole. Located eight miles north of Half Moon Caye, the Blue Hole is a 15,000-year-old limestone sinkhole that plunges from 15 feet to a staggering 412 feet through the sea floor. The Reef's Silver Caves reveal nocturnal, reclusive sea creatures; to the east Half Moon Caye Natural Monument and nearby Half Moon Wall carries the enviable distinction as the most beautiful place in Belize. Snorkelers, meanwhile, should make for the shallower, clearer waters of Ambergris Caye, where they'll be able to gaze down upon the multi-hued coral formations of Mexican Rocks and the docile stingrays and nurse sharks lazing above eight-foot-deep Shark-Ray Alley sandbar.

Published: 3 Jan 2003 | Last Updated: 3 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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